Cider Press Hill

Dobby's new mama

Thursday, 3:57 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Dobby has a new mother. Sort of.

For the summer, I’ve placed both Dobby and Lucy next to the sliding glass doors so that they can enjoy a bit of sunshine and fresh air. When the door is open, their chirps and songs apparently carry quite well to the outside. And, recently, this has attracted the attention of a female mockingbird.

Over the last couple of days, the mother mockingbird has taken up a fairly steady residence on my deck railing. She runs back and forth, fluffing her feathers and hollering into the house. On a couple of occasions, she has come right up to the screen door to do her hollering. And every time she hollers, Dobby chirps back at her, which, in turn, sends mama mockingbird into spasms of distress. Mama mockingbird, does the broken wing routine and tries to encourage me to get away from her baby. Oddly enough, however, Lucy’s chirps don’t seem to elicit much response from the mockingbird. Just Dobby’s.

I feel terribly sorry for the mockingbird because she has been utterly frantic for the last couple of days, never going more than a few yards from the deck.

At first, I thought perhaps she had lost one of her own babies somewhere around the deck. I’ve gone out to scour the area, just to make sure. But there are no signs of a mockingbird baby anywhere.

Earlier this afternoon, it became absolutely clear that she is consumed by concerns over Dobby’s safety. Abbie (the cat) and Dobby are friends. Abbie likes to curl up by Dobby’s cage and, quite often, they will press nose to beak through the cage bars. Dobby is very fond of Abbie, as well. The mockingbird doesn’t approve. This afternoon, while Abbie and Dobby were communing, the mockingbird flew off the deck railing and dive bombed the screen door. She screamed at Abbie and scared the poor cat out of her wits. Abbie raced off upstairs to hide under the bed. Mama mockingbird resumed her post on the deck railing, running back and forth, fussing and ruffling her feathers and flapping her wings.

It is one of the strangest things I have ever seen.


Have some fun with words

Friday, 10:24 am

By Kate





After our recently departed monsoon, mother nature has decided to surprise us with a beautiful day and low humidity. It must have been a last minute surprise because the weather man surely didn’t see it coming. On such as day as this, one drops what one is doing (or planned to do) to rush outside and hack through the jungle that has miraculously taken over during the deluge. There are no fewer than seven locust trees that have gained a toehold in the middle of my back yard. They are determined little things. That’s the perversity of nature for you. The trees that I want to grow in the places where I want them to grow seem to be precisely located in the most sterile spots in the neighborhood. The trees that I don’t want in precisely the places where I don’t want them thrive and appear almost overnight. It’s a good day to do battle.

While I’m out toiling in the dirt, you might be interested in creating some word art. It’s addictive and I must stay away from it for the balance of the day. I owe a hat tip to Linkmeister for this one. More fun than should be legal.

Make a word cloud out of almost anything...your blog front page or anything else you choose. Here’s mine—it’s a Wordle word cloud of Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.


Or, if you prefer, this one.



Delightful evening

Tuesday, 11:05 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Well. A very pleasant evening spent with the lad and his girlfriend. The lad decided to cook a meal tonight and wondered if it would be okay to invite Becca over. Sure thing. We ate rather fashionably late...he made a Greek dish. I’m not sure what it was called, but it involved steak and shredded potatoes. The potatoes had mint in them. The steak was infused with a variety of herbs and served with chopped tomatoes, feta, basil, chopped olives, and olive oil on top. Just fabulous. We had a delightful time sitting around the candlelit table talking over a bottle of retsina. I like this girl very much. And of course, we know that I’m nuts about the lad. Good company. We had a lot of fun talking about everything under the sun. Including British and Scots history. Ahhh....a girl after my own heart. 


Humidity, bane of my summer existence

Sunday, 6:55 pm

By Kate




light rain

This has been one of those summers that makes me realize that it truly is a toss up between winter and summer around here. They’re both awful. Although it has been fairly toasty lately, that’s not my gripe. It’s the stinkin’ humidity at rainforest levels. Maybe even higher than rainforest levels. And it has been relentless. Which presents a few problems....

1. Mildew - when the humidity stubbornly stays above 90%, mildew grows rapidly. On everything.

2. Laundry - just try drying clothes on the clothesline when the air is fairly dripping...for days and days on end. See #1.

3. My sheets are clammy and damp—pretty sheets simply do not mitigate the misery.

4. It’s so not fun putting on clothes that feel like I fished them out of a swimming pool 30 seconds ago even though I just pulled them out of the dresser drawer.

5. Damp footprints on the floors and carpets that feel like they were just rained on...ewww!

It really does make me wonder how people used to cope before the advent of electricity. Did they just go about their daily business reeking of mildew? Or what?

I semi-caved this month and my electricity use has about doubled. Which is to say...about 200 kWh this month instead of 100. It pains me enormously, but I just plain reached my tolerance levels for mildew, eternally damp stinky clothes, and leaving damp observable footprints on my floors.

I have used my dryer more this month than the previous 12 months combined. And...I’ve used the air conditioner about 8 days this month so far. At least long enough in the evenings to cool the bedrooms down a bit and wring some of the moisture out of the air (and the sheets).

Adding insult to injury, our air quality has been horrible this month. The weather service has issued air quality alerts several days running and they’re not kidding. I have even noticed that breathing tends to be a bit labored when trying to do anything outside. It even gets noticeable in the house when the house humidity gets into the 80+% range. Quite uncomfortable. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for people with asthma or other respiratory ailments. The humidity, of course, is what intensifies the discomfort.

Well, what’s a person to do? You know, aside from standing on the street corner with a big old sign that screams about air pollution and wasting energy and releasing all sorts of foul gunk into the air? With a face mask on. Like I have a leg to stand on when I’m running the AC and the dryer at full tilt.

Compromises, I suppose. Somewhere (I don’t remember where), yesterday, I read a blurb about such a compromise with regard to AC. As long as the air is dry, people can tolerate a much higher temperature in the house. Now, it’s true that heat doesn’t particularly bother me as long as the air is tolerably dry. And mildew doesn’t thrive in dry air regardless of heat...soooo....

The suggestion offered was using a dehumidifier and a ceiling fan (or other fan) for air circulation.

I dragged out my dehumidifier this morning and plugged it it. The relative humidity in the house was 87%. Pretty uncomfortable. Within a few hours, it had decreased to 56%. The house temp stayed constant at about 79°, but actually felt much cooler than before.

I have the house humidity down to about 52% now and that’s about perfect. I set the dehumidifier dial back a bit so that it only cycles on a couple of times an hour and, so far, the humidity has stayed constant in the house (and it’s drizzling/misting/fogging out with 100% humidity)...using way less electricity than if the AC was on.

Besides that...I can dry clothes on the clothes rack in the house, saving an additional 2-4 kWh per load.

So, I’m calculating that between the AC and the dryer, I’m saving about 12-14 kWh each day that I’m not using them both. The dehumidifier uses (according to my kill-a-watt meter) about 3.8 kWh for a day’s use (about 10 hours). That’s a pretty significant difference while still maintaining comfort and utility (drying clothes sans dryer or mildew...and eliminating mildew altogether). Total daily net savings is about 8.2-10.2 kWh. And that, of course, is not every day of the month...just the most egregiously humid ones....hahaha....when haven’t they been lately?

It’s not a perfect solution, but, in this foul, wretched climate, it is definitely a comfortable and much less energy intensive one.


A few words about....

Sunday, 6:37 pm

By Kate





Our sweet Annie over at A Canyon Cottage presented me with this little award a couple of days ago. It’s called the Arte y Pico and she thought I was worthy. I thank you, Annie. smiley

Now. According to the rules....

1) You must pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, based upon creativity, design, interesting material, and that also contribute to the blogger community, no matter what language.
2) Each award must have the name of the author with a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Award-winners must show the award and put the name and link to the blog that awarded it.
4) Award-winners and the one who has given the prize must show the link to the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5) These rules must be included in your post.

So I will list five blogs that I think deserve a spotlight for their various contributions to the blogging world and the larger world. I would not ask that they participate simply because I think they are way too busy and...I doubt if they read my humble little blog anyway. ;) Nevertheless…

1. Casaubon’s Book - run by the inimitable Sharon Astyk who, with humor, style, and intelligence, has made Doing Something About and Planning For the coming privations of Peak Oil a raison d’être rather than just an interesting side note. She is such a fount of knowledge and wisdom that she could write a book—which she has.

2. Little Blog in the Big Woods - how could I not love a guy who has lived off-grid for 31 years and has a huge outhouse which he makes sound classy and fun? He’s verrry smart.

3. Eco-Compass Blog - a blog associated with Island Press, which publishes a number of environmental books each year. Not yer average tree-hugger types, though I obviously have nothing against tree-huggers. ;) The blog publishes a diverse array of essays concerning environmental issues. Some really fine thinkers over there.

4. Crunchy Chicken - because who else could possibly make switching from toilet paper to washable cloths sound so logical and sensible...and stylish? I also wonder how she manages to pack as much into a day as she does with all that’s going on in her life. Crunchy is an amazing woman who does good things.

5. Moleskinerie - ostensibly about Moleskine notebooks, they still manage to pack in a lot of other stuff as well. Designed for the paper and pen obsessed...with pretty pictures, too. They feed the addiction. No,’s not a bad addiction is it??


What I've been doing

Saturday, 12:48 pm

By Kate




mostly sunny

Hello. I thought I’d dip a toe back in the pond...I didn’t mean to disappear quite this long. I’ve been doin’ things. And you probably didn’t even realize that I’ve been blogging like crazy—in my head. By the end of the day, it was all recorded—in my head—and that’s where it stayed. So. What have I been doing?

The last two weeks have been very domestic. I’ve helped one friend resolve a flood issue and reclaim her house. It was a mess, exacerbated by relentlessly high humidity that made drying anything out a real chore. Think mushrooms sprouting in the house. That kind of big chore. It was a godawful mess and a challenge of enormous proportions but, by golly, we did it.

And then, the lad and I helped J and her family move into her beeyootiful new home. I’ve been overcome by waves of envy. Gorgeous woodwork and gleaming hardwood floors. Oh my. Older homes have such charm and grace. It has been a while since I’ve been in an old house and the difference is startling. If you jump up and down in an older house, you get the sense that it’s there for the ages. Nothing rattles or vibrates. Old houses are solid things. Newer houses (like mine) are obviously not here for the ages. They simply do not have that feeling of solidity. They just don’t. As I said...envy.

With all this poking around in other people’s houses, I’ve been inspired to poke around in mine. There has been a sponge or wet rag affixed to my hands for so long now, I think they have rooted and we’ve become one. I’ve cleaned and scrubbed. And gotten rid of more stuff. And rearranged furniture. And washed walls and curtains and blinds (sticky yellow pollen glues itself to everything) and mopped floors. And cleaned out cupboards and cabinets and drawers. And hung pictures on walls in new places/positions and retired a few that I’ve tired of looking at.

And, finally, replaced the dining room light fixture. It was an ugly chandelier on the day that I moved into this house. It has been ugly for the last 14 years. I’ve always intended to replace it, but something else always seemed to want my attention more.

While J and I were out scooping up some odds and ends for her new home, I had an impulse to grab a new fixture. The one that caught my eye was sort of girly foo-foo (teapots and teacups in pinks and reds and blues and yellow...sort of like majolica ware only a poor imitation....don’t ask). J put her foot down and said she absolutely wouldn’t let me make that kind of awful mistake. I listen to her in these matters. She has an eye that never fails. She gently pointed me in another direction. Thank you, J.

Installing a fixture is a real intimate experience. You get to know the thing way better than you want and it’s a good sign if you still like it after you’ve spent a couple of hours cussing at it. I have no doubts that the teapot and teacup one would never have survived that process.

larger drop down image
This is what I wound up with. It took me a few hours to get the thing installed. Because...well, I always have to do things bass-ackwards before I get it right. I had the fixture about 3/4 installed before I realized that, although I had the wires all properly attached, they weren’t running up through the middle of the fixture into the ceiling. It’s one of those “you have to have been there and done it before” to understand, probably. I took it apart and rerouted the wires. And then I realized that the bolt that affixes the fixture to the ceiling was about a quarter inch too short. I had to take the thing apart again. Finally it was all done. I thought. Until I started stuffing the wires into the junction box and realized that I had a rather ample supply of wire. Damn it. I had to take the thing apart again. I sat on the floor with it and started cutting wires. And then spent an hour turning the house upside down looking for my wire strippers (located in the lad’s room...I should just start looking for things there first!). At last, I had it ready to assemble again...and this time it was the last time.

I love it, love it, love it. How amazing that one little feature in a room can totally change the character of the room. It’s sort of like...the room isn’t embarrassed anymore. It is vibrant and recharged with happy energy.

Anyway. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last little while. And, also, thoroughly enjoying the lad’s company when he’s around. Between work and his social obligations, he’s not here all that much, but we’ve been learning about cooking and we’re deep into a late night Stargate SG-1 marathon. He’s doing some chores here and there and has agreed to paint the fence for me before the end of the summer. He also plans to build a couple of simple folding wood racks for the load of wood we’ll get sometime in August. There is always something to do around here.


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